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EPAC presents “Legally Blonde the Musical”
Pulling up a personal anecdote to connect myself with EPAC’s presentation of “Legally Blonde the Musical” was going to be difficult. I can’t say I’ve ever been misjudged for having a strikingly handsome physique. I’ve never been known to carry pets in a custom handbag. I never went through a phase where I wore all pink (although I wore a pink shirt to the performance). When I took over the reviews of EPAC shows in 2012, I fell into a perfect scenario where the first 13 shows all had some kind of personal connection. Going into “Legally Blonde the Musical” I was pretty sure I had no connection at all. Then, before the third song in Act 2, came the line: “No one’s called me butthead since the third grade.” There was my anecdote.
I took my mature-for-her-age daughter to see “Legally Blonde the Musical,” Thursday, July 31, having missed opening night a week prior. On the drive to the theater — and I can’t recall how— the word “butthead” entered into our discussion.
“Do kids still call each other buttheads?” I asked, being a slightly naïve father at the age of 40.
“No, Dad, what?” was the response I got.
Well, when she heard the lines delivered in the show she looked at me like I had some kind of alien insight. Props to me for the time being!
Enduring a few physical hitches, EPAC’s rendition of Amanda Brown’s novel (and MGM movie) “Legally Blonde” was an uproarious success. Few chairs were left unfilled as throngs of attendees, old and young, male and female, filled the seats to take in this show, which is more than just a tale of female empowerment. It is a tale of human empowerment.
Elle Woods (Amy Ward) is slighted by a collegiate lover bent on bettering the name of his family. Warner (Jordan Strybos) longs to be with a Jackie Onassis rather than a Marilyn Monroe and hightails it from his sundrenched California college to seek political fame at Harvard. Elle, aiming to recapture the heart of her lover decides to buckle down on her studies and apply to the Ivy League college. Once enrolled, Elle meets Harvard students: Enid (Steph Hallett), an eco-feminist lesbian; Vivienne (Lauren Adkins), a prudish yet savvy law student and ultimately the focus of Warner’s affection; and Emmett (Sean Deffley), a hardworking scholar at the center of Elle’s transformation.
Elle is aided — mostly in spirit — by the Delta Nu sister, including sensible and sassy Pilar (Madeline Shiffer), cheer captain Serena (Heidi Carletti), and man hungry Margot (Corina Connelly). Elle finds herself without love and increasingly underappreciated and discounted as a student and person. Confiding in her hairdresser, Paulette (Niki Boyer-Swatski), Elle is empowered to make the best of her education and ultimately wins her way on to Professor Callahan’s (Jim Rule) legal team where she represents Brooke (Alyssa Miller), a Delta Nu famous for her workout videos and now accused of murdering her husband. But, things are not all peachy for our heroine as she faces inappropriate advances, heartbreak, but ultimately redemption.
The roles of Paulette and Callahan are minor, but have a huge impact on the story of “Legally Blonde the Musical.” Paulette, who is lost without love, tells her heartbreaking story in the number “Ireland.” She fell for the first Irishman she met and he turned out to be a louse. Callahan gives the students the lowdown on what it means to be a great lawyer in “Blood in the Water.” You’re either a shark or shark bait! The performances by Boyer-Swatski and Rule were commanding and showed off their vocal prowess and expertise on the stage. Act One serves as a delivery for the plot, like a fluffy piece of cake with Act Two being the sparkly, super sweet icing.
In Act Two the entire company gets involved with the hilarious numbers “Bend and Snap” and “Gay or European?” I was literally crying with laughter during these back to back numbers. The entire theater was laughing uncontrollably. In “Bend and Snap” we are introduced to a UPS man full of bravado played by Ryan Stadel; his swagger was a definite crowd pleaser. Making a small-but also hilarious-appearance was EPAC regular Irving Gonzalez who played a scorned lover in “Gay or European?”
Directed by Cody Smith, “Legally Blonde the Musical” has some incredibly challenging choreography (also by Cody Smith), which showed off the physical skill of the entire cast. Smith, who is the director of the Hempfield Dance Theatre program, has worked on 16 other shows at EPAC. Congratulations must also be given to Costume Designer Kate Willman and Wardrobe Supervisor Jennifer Farrington for creating and controlling a show with some of the most elaborate costume changes (including some on stage) I’ve seen since EPAC presented “The Producers.”
All in all, “Legally Blonde the Musical” is a wonderfully delightful show. EPAC has once again proved itself as the regions premiere venue for musical theater. Put on some pink and catch the show while you can. No one will call you a butthead.
Michael C. Upton works as a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure covering subjects ranging from funk punk to fine wine. He invites your comments and suggestions at 354-0609.